Distance track coach Dave Culp has always had multiple mottos to motivate his athletes. Standing on the TC track before a Wednesday spring practice, he recited one of his favorite sayings by memory.
“I always like to have big dreams. For example, it’s better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for the gutter and hit it,” Culp said.
Culp had been involved in track for over 15 years as girls’ distance coach before retiring after the fall cross country season. But for the 2016 spring season, Culp decided to return as an assistant track coach for both boys’ and girls’ distance runners.
This is the first season Culp has coached a boys’ team. And with nearly 30 distance girls and about 20 boys, Culp is in charge of a combined 50 athletes this spring season.
“In the past, I have just focused on the girls and that has been a little easier. This year, I have found that boys do need to be coached differently; but logistically, the designs of their workouts are similar. So doing both boys and girls distance has been a little bit of an adjustment for me, but I’m getting used to it,” Culp said.
As of second semester, head girls’ track coach Andy Morgan moved from Roberson and is currently head track coach and head football coach at McDowell High School. Andrew Devine also stepped down from TC’s track program this season after seven years of being boy’s head coach; however, he has contributed to the program this season by helping with meets.
Like Culp, Racheal Petre and Artis Gilmore took new track positions for the 2016 season as girls’ and boys’ head coaches, respectively. Petre has been involved in TC track as jumping coach for three years, and Gilmore has specialized in sprinters and shorter distance for both boys and girls. Taking over as head coaches this spring were welcomed changes for both of them.
“Coach Gilmore and I both are pumped to be head coaches this year. We’ve been part of this track program, so it’s not anything new to us. They’ve been our family here. I was really lucky that I got to learn under Coach Morgan. He’s phenomenal, so you can’t really ask for a better mentor or head coach to learn from,” Petre said.
Along with the shift in coaches, a very large number of athletes came out for the spring track and field season compared to numbers of previous years. Runners and field athletes combined total of 85 girls and 60 boys to be around 145 students, which is considerably large for a track and field team.
Having such a large team is a challenge logistically, but Petre and Gilmore are handling the large number of athletes this season considerably well.
“If anyone knows me, they’ll laugh and tell you that Mrs. Petre is super OCD and beyond organized, and I think that definitely helps out. We like to call it organized chaos out on the field, but really, we break athletes down to their subgroups, and we’ve got everything covered,” Petre says.
Distance runner Elise Wright is a sophomore who has moved to TC from Veritas as of second semester. Wright is one of the many new competitors this season and has already proved herself to be a top distance athlete.
“I feel like track here at TC is a small army. All of the people out there, when the sprinters and the throwers and the distance runners are trying to use the track. It’s really chaotic, but it’s still fun. We also have a lot of good athletes, and the coaches are really great. It looks very promising,” Wright says.
Nicole Broeffle is also an athlete who is new to Roberson’s track program this season. Broeffle decided to join track this spring as a senior and competes in mid-distance events.
“Now that I’m a senior, I decided I wanted to have fun with TC while I’m here and stay around as much as possible. I’m enjoying track a lot so far, and I’ve already improved quite a bit. It’s a lot different from what I expected, but I’m super glad I joined,” she said.
Because of the large number of athletes this season, multiple assistant coaches have become more involved with TC’s track program this year to aid Petre, Gilmore, and Culp, and to provide athletes with additional leadership. Scott Mead has joined and is helping with throwers and assistant Amberly Dalton is now in charge of hurdlers.
Regardless of the differences in the staff and size of Roberson’s team this year, the athletes in the program are just as competitive as previous years. According to coaches Culp and Petre, multiple relay teams and individuals have a good chance of qualifying for state and breaking school records.
“We have a strong tradition here at TC and that’s not going to change, and neither are our expectations just because of the changes head coaches. I have high hopes for our team this year,” Petre said.